NVSC History - 1996
Valerie Swiger took over Membership from Patricia Parrott and continues the responsible role into the year 2003.
In January 1996, with Rick Hendrix's help, Sy Creed and Dana Brown, 1993 National Shag Champions, came to teach basic fundamentals, style and technique. That evening Sy and Dana performed a beautiful shag exhibition at a dance at Cherry Hill in Maryland, and then were joined on the floor by attending NVSC members. The swing dance crowd vigorously applauded them all. Promoting and expanding shag was continuously happening.
The Club needed a dance floor for the First Annual Capital Shag Classic. Floor rentals cost about $2,300. With an investment of about $1,500 and thanks to donations from anonymous members and the strong arms and concerted mental efforts of a small crew of club members, the Club's very own dance floor came into being. (See write-up below.)
Club Dance Floor
In 1996, John Belt took the initiative to start working on developing a plan for our club to have a weekend party... a daunting task considering how young and under-funded our club was. He contacted numerous hotels and consistently was rejected. Most hotels want monetary guarantees and want to see the track record from your previous experiences. We had neither the money nor the experience. He was finally able to convince HoJo's in Alexandria to take a shot on us. Step one accomplished, we had a place.
John went on to the next problem. Renting a dance floor. The club had rented a small floor for a party at Cardinal Forest. No problem, he would just rent a large floor. That's when he found out that no vendor had 1,200 sq. ft. of dance floor to rent. This presented a problem. Maybe we could use multiple vendors! Then came the problem of the cost. In order to get enough rental floor space from several vendors, the cost would be an outrageous $2,200 for rental alone, not including transportation or installation. That was impossible. Built into the cost, that would make the ticket price prohibitive. Something else would have to happen.
About that time, the company that Gary Salpini was working for was removing a hardwood basketball court from a church in Oakton. What if that could be salvaged and recycled? Sounds interesting. A refinished maple dance floor! What a coup!
Gary had the carpenters saw the floor into panels that were slightly larger than 4 x 8 panels, and had 50 of them delivered to his house. That Saturday, John Belt, Dave Rapson, and Gary Salpini went to work on re-sizing the panels to true 4 x 8 sheets to panelize the floor for portability. After 9 hours of extremely hard work, only about 6 panels were reasonably finished and the overall outcome looked really poor - the panels were just too heavy to deal with. Seems that the basketball floor idea was a bust. John, Dave, and Gary spent the next two days hauling all the floor panels back to the jobsite for disposal. Something else would have to happen.
John spoke with someone at the Richmond club about their dance floor and they agreed to share their drawing plans with us. A review of the plans showed a plywood floor system that appeared to be easy to build and economical to afford. It was estimated that the floor could be built for an initial cost of about $1,300. This would save a lot of money, even if it was only used once and then disposed of. The plan was made. We would build a dance floor.
John and Gary rounded up all the material and stored it at Gary's house. They set a date for the following Saturday to assemble and begin work. The floor construction crew consisted of John Belt, Charlie Price, Gary Salpini, Dave Rapson, Valerie Swiger, Denise Bass, Les Lanier, and Jerry Crews. A floor panel template was made, furring stringers were cut, and an assembly line set up. By the end of the day, we had 44 dance floor panels ready for the inaugural Classic! Some additional design and work continued to come up with a suitable edge piece to transition from the dance floor to the regular floor.
On the Thursday before the Classic, John arranged for a truck, and the floor was loaded, transported to the hotel, and set in place for the first time. Five hours later the dance floor was complete and went on to become a focal point of the party.
Capital Shag Classic - Fred Fritz Named It – The Board considered several entries and chose the name suggested by Fred Fritz for the club’s first annual weekend party: CAPITAL SHAG CLASSIC.
The First Annual Capital Shag Classic, June 28-30, 1996, at the Howard Johnson Hotel in Alexandria was a great big, huge success... thanks in large part to the beautiful, shiny new dance floor. Norman Mills and Jerry Canada were guest deejays, along with Eddy Farmer, and Craig Jennings. Brent Key and Shea Carver taught a free shag workshop. They taught “The Chelsea.” They also performed inspiring exhibition dances. Larry and Shirley Jones taught a free beginner workshop, and Keith Abernathy and Donna Harrington taught “The KD.” Weekend tickets sold for $40. Rooms were available at the special rate of $50 per night. Dancers came from up and down the coast and from the West.
Everyone has their own personal opinion as to why NVSC’s first weekend event was so successful, but the writer believes it was because (1) club enthusiasm, (2) the attendance was just the right size, not too many, not too few, which made the atmosphere personable and friendly, informal and carefree, (3) the usual great music, great dancing, great food, great people and (4) NVSC had, by now, generated the interest of many old-time shaggers of the Southeast. They looked, it seemed, to NVSC to expand shag, and so they willingly came and gave their support, knowledge, and experience.
Hendrix, Belt, Price Put NVSC on the Party Map
(Or, The First Time’s a Charm)
Driving North from Richmond to Shag??? (Say that again; one mo’ time.) Driving North – from Richmond! – to Shag! Well, the flyer on the Northern Virginia Shag Club’s First Annual Capital Shag Classic presented an enticing weekend: workshops, top ACSC DJs, junior champs Brent Key and Shea Carver, vendors, instructors extraordinaire Larry and Shirley Jones, free pours and food … but all in the opposite direction of where my Chrysler sedan always autopilots to go Shagging. Not anymore, y’all! The Northern Virginia Shag Club has come of age – BIG TIME. My first contact with NVSC was through (who else?) Rick Hendrix, king of all schmoozers and Shagger supreme, originally from High Point, NC. While I’ve known Rick for maybe three years, he – and Donna and Pauline and John and Judy and Mark, etc., etc., -- have adopted your Shagging Boy as a brother.
My first encounter with NVSC’s plans came in February with a message on my machine from John Belt of the Northern Virginia Shag Club. After several weeks of tag, I finally found out from RSC’s “Maximum Joe” Tedesco that John and Charlie Price were throwing a big party in June, and could we give them advice on building a floor as many NVSC stalwarts had supported our “Shag Splash” last August in Petersburg. This telescopes the timing and the story to Friday, June 28th, the Howard Johnson Hotel, Alexandria, VA, and the First Annual Capital Shag Classic (the name alone is strong as new rope, as they say). We had arrived, showered, changed and hit the party. I was warmly greeted at the check in table by Jim Taylor and Valerie Swiger who, I’m told, was critical in pulling the whole throwdown together.
My second cordial encounter was with T.H.E. Rick Hendrix; then Janis Grimes; then Christy NcNeil of RSC. I immediately noticed a very young couple arriving; she radiated intense energy; he sported a Samurai ponytail and French lip goatee. . . THE JUNIOR CHAMPS!! Before I could really get oiled up, Rick had me introduced and on the floor with Shea Carver, the zaftig half of the junior couple. As we took the start position, the electricity crackled from Shea to me – it was palpable – and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her feet, legs and hips, nor her charismatic smile. Whether I did myself, or her, justice as a dance partner, I don’t care: she both energized your Shagging Boy and left me weak in my Boogie-Walking knees concurrently. I went to church Friday, June 28, 1996. But, back to the party. Jerry Canada was keeping the floor packed with a superb blend of our beloved Shag music. Surrounding me were wonderful new friends like Donna Harrington, Judy Lance, Jim Taylor, Eddy Farmer, and John Belt. As always, strong support for our friends in Northern Virginia came from Virginia Beach, Roanoke Valley, Boogie on the Bay and Richmond. Personally, I have never been made to feel more welcome anywhere than with our brothers and sisters “up North.”
From the time I exited the superb Friday night buffet and hit the dance floor (an ultra-smooth 1200 square feet of Catfish-dusted playground), I enjoyed innumerable dances with a stunning array of wonderful partners: Leslie and Christy from Richmond; Janis, Liz and Donna from NVSC; and, of course, Shea Carver. The $10 – all-you-can-drink deal (both nights!) was a smash hit and pleasant surprise. I must say I took advantage of it with all due speed. A hint of the staggering variety of 6-count dances extant in and around DC soon became apparent as Friday night blossomed…. Norman Mills took up where Jerry Canada left off: reading the crowd to perfection, keeping the dance floor packed, thumping and rocking. I had at it till 1:00 a.m., at which time I crashed, overjoyed with the camaraderie of our Shag lifestyle, as well as the knowledge that NVSC’s first venture was a jam-up hit with the ACSC crowd.
I especially enjoy Saturday mornings at weekend ACSC parties; cognoscenti know that Saturdays are also the most productive day in the weekend, with workshops, exhibitions and especially the fantastic breakfast buffet, over which many new friendships are formed, and much BS is slung. Saturday morning’s atmospheres at the Olde Town Howard Johnson’s was especially convivial amongst my Shagging buddies, a good omen of the day – and night – to come. Pedagogues Larry and Shirley Jones outdid themselves in the Basics workshop. Half humor and all superb technical advice kept the large class riveted. We were all relaxed, loose and limber for Donna and Keith’s intermediate class, featuring their stylish creation known as the KD, a joy to learn and fun to practice. Despite a midday time slot and fluorescent lighting, the electricity in the ballroom ratcheted up considerably as Brent and Shea entered. Star quality? It’s all over this couple. Shea took the lead as they showed and taught the Chelsea, a snapping yet sensuous mirror step that left me gasping at the sheer sexiness of it. The gentle politeness and engaging drawls of these charismatic dancers made me glad I’m Southern and (Thank you, Jesus!) that I’m a Shagger. As a surprise cap on our school day, Larry and Shirley had an impromptu, but thorough, pivot workshop.
The charm of Olde Towne drew many of our party people away for the afternoon (as did a nap for your Shagging Boy from too much roistering the previous evening). Excellent vendors such as Marlene of Jacksonville and Judy’s House of Oldies occupied the main hall to the ballroom; shopping these stalls with the esoteric contents is one of the wonderful “inside” activities on a Shag weekend. Don’t get it? Too bad you’re not a Shagger!
Saturday night – the Crown Jewel of the weekend! The gents in their finest baggies and sheened Cole-Haans; the ladies in their finest French braids, glittery earrings and gold Shag shoes. Yes, we were in heaven when Jerry Canada eased in with three beautiful slow dance ballads – a nice touch. Soon after, the Smoothies gave way to the fatback beat of Rev. Al Green’s Jesus Will Fix It, and they were off! Afternoon DJs Eddy Farmer and Craig Jennings had set the tone all day with superb material to satisfy Hand, Swing and Shag dancers. Jerry Canada and Norman Mills continued to handle the crowd as only top ACSC DJs can: with total abandon. Innumerable dances with Judy and Christy left your reporter ready for the most fantastic exhibition of dancing he’d ever seen. Around midnight (after NVSC’s Mimi won the 50/50) the top dancers in the house took the floor. When I thought nothing could top the Jam earlier in the evening (Dan Shames, The King of Swing!!!), the top dancers in the house cleared the floor with DC Hand Dance, East and West Coast Swing, and my personal favorites, shaggers Larry and Shirley and, of course, Brent and Shea. NOTHING could have prepared me for the Lindy-Hoppers, Tom Koerner and Debra Sternberg. This cannot be described, it must be seen: the energy, the acrobatics and speed (the danger!). The entire exhibition could not be equaled in variety in points South. It left me simultaneously exhilarated and exhausted. I’m glad I did not miss it … thereafter I crashed, happy just to be a small part of this wonderful subculture.
The anticlimax of all anticlimaxes is Sunday morning of a Shag weekend. Sorry, but it’s the truth. Sure, you get to dance a few more numbers, chat a while with new and old friends, but you know it’s a done deal. You exchange a few phone numbers, thank the hosts profusely and at 1:00 you hit the road, rehashing in your mind the innumerable high spots of the weekend. Then you start rallying . . . where’s the next party? How many weeks to SOS? How soon should I call that swell girl from Saturday night? There’s hope! There’s always hope when you hang with ACSC party people! Northern Virginia Shag Club, Welcome to The Great Southeast!!!!!
Craig Jennings had replaced Burt Nelbach as the club deejay. Craig played energizing Beach Music three times a month and arranged a guest deejay the fourth Wednesday of the month. Craig served on the 1997, 1998 and 1999 NVSC Board of Directors and continues to support the club and serve as NVSC Deejay into the year 2003. He has enormous enthusiasm for Beach Music, the dance and club success. Larry Jones joined forces with Craig and brought his special mix of Beach Music to further inspire the Wednesday night dancers at Blackie’s.
Around this same time, July 1996, the Club began to look at improving the format for shag instruction. They decided on a fixed lesson plan based on rotating four-week cycles. Chris Pax and Janis Grimes prepared a standardized lesson plan and manual. Lessons would continue to be free, but in order for a student to advance above the beginner or introductory level, they would be required to join the club. Chris Pax and Janis Grimes deserve immense credit for their work in planning and structuring lesson plans and drafting, typing and publishing the instruction manual. They met regularly to discuss with other Dance Committee members ways to streamline the format into easy, well-executable lessons. These lesson instructions are still in place in 2003 and have evolved to be one of the most significant assets for the club’s growth and popularity and a needed boost to the treasury. Other dance committee members at that time were: Rick Hendrix, Bill Hopkins, Phyllis Schulte, Larry Boyer, Mark Rollings, Donna Harrington, Joan McKinney and Charlie Price.
Passions ran high in 1996. Throughout the year, NVSC members got together for more Road Trips and to dance their beloved shag. They went to: SOS Spring Fling and Fall Migration, North Myrtle Beach, to Virginia Beach Shag Club’s annual Beach Bash, to Richmond’s annual Shag Splash and other social events, to Portsmouth’s Boogie on the Bay Shag Club’s Magic Maydays, to Jackie and Charlie’s SOS Grand National Dance Championships in Atlanta, and to other places south. NVSC members continued to support and participate in local dance groups: Craig Hutchinson’s VA State Open, Barry Durand’s Swing Fling, and shared gatherings with the D.C. Hand Dancers. Seems they didn’t want to miss any opportunity to be sociable and dance. As Donna Harrington wrote, “Shag music goes through your skin, even your bones and reaches your soul. You truly can feel it before you even realize you’re hearing it. The jolt of energy is real, electric, and you feel alive. Even in the doldrums of winter, you experience the rebirth of spring surge through your blood at the first sound of the beat.”
Shaggers again wowed the crowd and the judges at the 1996 VA State Open Dance Competitions and brought further recognition to the Northern Virginia Shag Club. Chris Pax and Bill Hopkins won the coveted Rising Star Award. Dan Shames and Janis Grimes won first place in the Amateur Shag Division. Karen Garmon and Billy White of VA Beach took first place in the Open Classic Shag Division closely followed by smoothies Sid and Linda Strawderman of Richmond.
It was at the Virginia State Open that we first noticed the Smooth & EZ DC Hand Dancers perform couples dance competitions and team competitions. We were mesmerized by the beauty, grace, skill, and intricacy of their dancing. As it turned out, they were also mesmerized by shaggers and by the Carolina Shag. Friendships and camaraderie ensued that included many exchanges, visits to Blackie’s and sharing of dances. Hand Dancers Lawrence Bradford, BJ Jones, Steve Mitchell, Gaye Proctor, Cynthia Trueheart and Greg Owens came to Blackie’s, and through mutual admiration for dance styles, enduring friendships began. Greg Owens, in particular, had a strong desire to learn to shag and by persistence, practice and determination, he learned the Carolina Shag and became a favored dance partner to many ladies.
The December 7, 1996, Christmas Party was again held at the McLean VFW. Bill Hopkins chaired. Deejays were Craig Jennings and Larry Jones. There was a free shag workshop with National competitors, Larry and Shirley Jones. Cost: $10 per person, $15 at the door. Thanks to the NVSC members who brought wrapped toys for the annual charity, the club presented four large gift bags to Ho, Ho, Ho, the group responsible for delivering toys to needy children in Alexandria.